News / USA

Immigration Law Divides Arizona City

Bill Odle
Bill Odle
Mike O'Sullivan

A law intended to curb illegal immigration is to take effect in the southwestern state of Arizona late next month and it is generating controversy across the United States.  Recent public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans, including those in Arizona, support the new law, which requires non-citizens to carry documents that show that they are in the United States legally.  It also requires Arizona police to question people if there is reason to believe they are not in the country legally. In Tucson, Arizona both sides in the debate say it is up to Washington to settle the immigration issue.

The new law has led to protests throughout the United States and it is dividing the people of Tucson.  The city is only 100 kilometers from the U.S. border with Mexico.  And authorities say that at least 40 percent of U.S. border crossing arrests are in the Tucson region.  More than 240,000 illegal migrants were apprehended in there last year.

South of Tucson, on the border, residents complain of human and drug smuggling, of nuisances like trash left by those who cross the border illegally, and of violence.

Bill Odle's home is on the border.  He says lack of action by the U.S. government prompted the state measure.

"Because we're so disappointed in the failure of the federal government to do anything productive.  They [federal government] are charged with that [border enforcement] in the Constitution.  And they have just failed," he said.

Pancho Medina
Pancho Medina

But in the Hispanic neighborhood of South Tucson, attitudes are different.  At a local charity that offers food to the poor, Mexican American activist Pancho Medina says the law targets Hispanics.

"The state legislature should be saying, 'Mexicans, go home!  Go back to Mexico, Mexicans!'  That's what they're really saying.  And I'm angry because I'm more of an American, I'm a better citizen, more patriotic than half of these people in the United States," he said.

Responding to criticism, the Arizona legislature changed the wording of the law to ensure that race is not a factor in enforcement.  

But critics like Reverend Delle McCormick of the group BorderLinks say race will be decisive.

"Everybody knows who's stopped more often here," McCormick said. "I mean, it's happened for years.  It's people of color, people with brown skin or light brown skin.  It's people who are smaller in stature.  People who wear a particular kind of clothing, have a backpack on, have dark clothing, look like they've come through the desert, look like they're a migrant."

Police worry that the law will hurt relations with the Hispanic community.

Captain Michael Gillooly, chief of staff of the Tucson Police Department, says the new law will take officers away from enforcing other laws.

"And that might be challenging for us because we're a busy community, a busy police department," he said. "And we will have to find time for that.  The challenge is that the law also prescribes a remedy for a civil lawsuit against the city and the police department, if somebody feels we did not enforce the law when we had an opportunity to do so."

Since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law in April, dozens of U.S. cities have launched boycotts against the state.  Economists say they might already be having an impact on Arizona's tourist industry, which employs 40,000 people in Tucson alone.

But Kimberly Schmitz of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitor's Bureau says the boycotts will not resolve the issue of immigration.

"Boycotts are bad for everybody," she said. "Everybody suffers.  There's just nothing good that comes out of it.  We believe that there are other ways to work with some of the issues that are going on than to try to deprive an industry or really deprive people in an industry of their livelihood."

The new law faces civil lawsuits.  And the Obama administration is considering a court challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice.  

Law professors at the University of Arizona in Tucson have tried to untangle the issues.  One says the law is not well written, but that it raises important questions about the place of race in law enforcement and the role of local officials in enforcing federal immigration law.

Professor Marc Miller says it is unclear whether the Arizona law will withstand a court challenge.

"And part of the difficulty in answering the question is that to understand all of the legal issues involved with this bill requires about half of a modern American law faculty," he said. "You have to be a criminal lawyer, an expert in criminal procedure, in state and federal relations, in state and local law, in constitutional law and in immigration law."

President Barack Obama has promised to send an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, but that has done little to satisfy either side in the debate.  

In the end, most people agree that the federal government has the main responsibility for overseeing immigration.  Conservatives largely favor better fences and stricter border enforcement.  And liberals want immigration reform with a path to citizenship for some of the millions of people who are already in the United States illegally.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid